Growing Turmeric – Was it Worth It?

Like ginger, turmeric isn’t really that well suited to my climate.  I live in a temperate climate but really it is a tropical plant.  So was it worth growing turmeric in Melbourne?  Well I think the answer is yes, particularly if you enjoy cooking with it but have trouble finding it fresh.

I bought turmeric rhizomes from Green Harvest last Spring and planted them in September.  I did the same last year with less success but this year my crop has been a lot more substantial.  The rhizomes cost me $6.95 and based on the price of fresh turmeric at Preston Market my crop was worth about $8.00. Whilst this doesn’t seem to be a great return I should mention that I only planted out half of the rhizomes in pots the rest went in the ground, and pretty much all of that return is from the pot grown plants.  I also have plenty of growing material for next year so the $6.95 is just a start up expense.

Even if you don’t get a crop you may find the plants attractive enough to grow for their foliage.   The larger leaved plants in the picture below are the turmeric.  They certainly gave my garden a lush tropical feel which I really enjoyed.

I planted out my rhizomes in September, I also had some that I’d left in the ground from last year.  Those planted direct in the ground had stunted growth and didn’t form many rhizomes at all.  The pot grown ones were far more successful.  I think that this is because they had no competition and as a result got much larger quantities of food and water than those grown in the ground.  They also had a bit more sun.

I harvested once the foliage began to die away in winter:

This is some of what I found beneath the soil:

Altogether I harvested about 500g from 3 rhizomes planted into a 40cm pot.  Whilst I’m sure that I would have got a lot more if I was gardening in the tropics it was still a fairly satisfying amount.  The other thing I should admit is that whilst I’m pretty sure that this harvest was from rhizomes planted this season it may be that some of it is from rhizomes that had been in the soil for 2 years.  I did leave some in a pot over winter and I’m not sure if it was part of this harvest or if it was one I pulled much earlier in the year.  Most of this harvest looks like new growth so regardless I’m confident that most of the growth occured this year.

You can see some of what I presume is older growth in the front of the above picture.  Its skin is much darker and internally it is a stronger colour.

I use fresh turmeric in both curry pastes and stir fries, the taste is fresher and lighter than the powder.  If I had more I would consider trying to dry some to grind as I do enjoy using it in powder form too.

I have set aside some rhizomes for replanting in Spring, and have put a couple of pieces into little pots inside to see if I can get them going a bit earlier by keeping them inside.  All in all a fun experiment.  Now I want to try galangal – I’ve planted some the last two years but it hasn’t shooted.  I plan to try again this year with material bought at the market and see if I’m more successful with that.  Anyone done this successfully?

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71 Responses to Growing Turmeric – Was it Worth It?

  1. True gardening spirit – up for a challenge and wanting to try something new!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for the great info…I would like to try growing and using fresh turmeric so had to ask for help…as a 76 yr old with all sorts of aches and pains (also hip replacement)I like to stay away from doctors and use natural healing as much as possible….so, happy growing to us all.

  2. Liz says:

    Or perhaps foolhardy….or it gardening spirit the same thing – it felt like it today as I braved the cold and did some weeding.

  3. Norma Chang says:

    I too love to experiment in the garden and feel that even I do not get a good harvest I am still successful as I gained knowledge so definitely worth the expense and effort.
    Your tumeric look beautiful thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Liz says:

      I absolutely agree regarding gaining knowledge and trying something new – even if it is simply new vartieties of the same crops, I love that about gardening each year you get to try something else.

  4. Daphne says:

    I’ve never tried either of these. I keep trying cumin but it never works out for me. It always dies when I try hardening it off. I think next year I’ll just sow a lot in the ground and see if it has a long enough season to go to seed.

    • Liz says:

      Mine died hardening it off too. I think I’m going to try sowing it in summer and see if that works, I’m thinking perhaps it needs that initial warmth to get established.

  5. Lrong says:

    Oh, good job on the tumeric… I have yet to try growing them here in Japan and would certainly like to try…

    • Liz says:

      I found it really worthwhile, and it is supposed to be very good for you, particularly if like me you are prone to arthritis.

  6. I really do think the plant would be worth the trouble. I love those leaves. Your pictures of the rhizomes are beautiful.

    That is a really interesting experiment. I am glad you were able to harvest from it.

  7. kitsapFG says:

    That really is a very pretty (exotic) looking plant. I have been trying to start some ginger in pots with no success todate. I think our region’s climate is just too mild for it. I have not given up on it yet. Figured I would wait until after we get through a summer warm spell and if they do not show then, the pot will be taken over for something else.

    • Liz says:

      My ginger came up in late November/early December here – our daytime long term average is about 23-24C at that time and nighttime its about 12C. I think last year was probably fairly typical but I can’t really remember. I do remember had quite a few days in the high 20s- low 30s in November which I imagine helped.

  8. Chelsea says:

    Love it! Had no idea what fresh turmeric looked like as a plant/rhizomes. Wonder if it’d be worth attempting here in deepest Suffolk (steeples fingers ominously) ???

    • Liz says:

      I have a friend who is a master of the steepling of fingers ominously – love the reference. You can but try but I suspect it may not get warm enough for a sustained enough period o work. Having said that trying is always fun.

  9. Bee Girl says:

    What a wonderful experiment! Congrats on the new growth and the continued challenge! I’ll be curious to see if keeping them inside for during the cooler months helps their production overall (my guess is that it will)! 🙂

  10. stone says:

    I like the looks of those tubers… Looks like fresh ginger.
    Those canna-looking plants look pretty nice too. Did you get any flowers?

    Ida totally been interested in seeing them… I just googled “tumeric plants” and saw some blooms… I think that I could grow those beauties outside in the perennial border…

    How does fresh tumeric compare to that powdered stuff?
    It looks like I could slice it into the recipe like fresh ginger root… I totally want some!

    Fresh tumeric root with fresh habenero… fierce curry!

    • Liz says:

      I use it in exactly the same way I use fresh ginger, either finely grated or pulverised into a curry paste. Mine didn’t flower – our climate isn’t really that well suited for them – I think you’d have to be a lot further north in Australia to have success with flowers.

  11. becky3086 says:

    I am definitely going to try this. I can buy roots online this project just has to wait its turn.

  12. Liz, thanks for this post about turmeric, I didn’t know you can use it raw. Good to know. I think it will do well in this climate as we have a very hot and long summers, do you think?

    • Liz says:

      Yes I think it would do well – your climate is probably much more suited to it than mine if the truth be known.

  13. Diana says:

    You did very well with the turmeric. I know it is not easy to grow them in temperate climate. I forgot to check ours so thank you for the reminder. We did not grow any last year but somehow some sprouted from compost or rhizomes that I forgot to harvest from previous year. We used the leaves as well for cooking make it more fragrant in Malaysia yellow curry.
    P.S. I am suppose to give you a message but these few weeks has been so busy. This week is full with appointments too. Hopefully next week I find sometime to breath and calm.

  14. Dave says:

    Ok, you have me wanting to try turmeric! It’s hard to find here too. Sometimes the Asian market has it, mostly they don’t. It does look pretty enough just to grow for that reason alone.

  15. Balvinder says:

    Liz , I am in awe of the bounty of your garden and love the idea of growing turmeric.
    I agree, the taste of this turmeric is fresher.

    • Liz says:

      I find it quite hard to describe the difference, actually I find it quite hard to describe the taste of turmeric full stop. Fresher is a good word.

  16. Jodie says:

    Wow Liz, I think you did well with the turmeric- $6.95 is not a bad investment if it can keep on growing and dividing. Will be interesting to see how you go with the galangal next spring…..

    • Liz says:

      Yeah I sense the galangal may be a bit of a challenge after two failures but everything I’ve read suggests it should do better in my climate than either ginger and turmeric should so…..

      • Rozie says:

        Keep trying with the galangal. I planted some two and s half months ago (ginger and turmeric are both a foot high now) and was about to give up on it when out of the blue, yesterday I noticed it has a shoot! Hooray! My plan is to build a little greenhouse for all of them so that they will hopefully continue to grow over winter (seeing as I planted them soooo late).

  17. William says:

    Hey Liz
    Turmeric/Tumeric grows well in Cairns. I plant out the tubers in November most years. But this year mine have only just started to sprout as it has been incredibly dry this year. It takes about 8 months to mature, before dying back.
    Then we dig it up store some for the following planting and use the rest.
    It can be used fresh or…
    If you peel it, slice it up real thin and then roast it in a very low oven (around 45deg) for several hours until it is crisp dry.
    Then into a spice grinder to turn it into powder. We also put the powder in capsules and take as an anti-inflammatory.
    Cape York Lilly is also part of the tumeric family and can be used the same way. It is yellow rather than orange.
    Tumeric will throw white flowers in the second year if you leave it undisturbed.
    Cape York Lilly has pink/purple and white flowers.
    Cheers
    William

    • Liz says:

      That’s interesting that yours have only just come up too – so have mine. I suspect your yield is probably much larger than mine though. I’ll have to look out for Cape York Lilly however I suspect it may struggle in Melbourne’s climate…but you never know….

    • amorelle dempster says:

      Interested to find out if the yellow turmeric I have growing in the garden here in the hunter valley (NSW) is the Cape York Lilly, it certainly had white flowers.
      I am wondering if you know the name of the more redder coloured turmeric. The rhizomes are much smaller. (available for sale in asian grocery stores in Sydney)

  18. Nola Brooks says:

    Hi Liz, thanks for that post about growing Turmeric. I,ve wanted to grow it for some time . Now I feel confident to try it. The pictures were REALLY useful.
    I purchased some Galangal from Green Harvest last year and potted it up around late summer. It just sat there and I forgot about it. One day I knocked the pot out to reuse it and discovered the rhizome in it, complete with new shoots. So I repotted it , watered it, set it in the sunniest place I could find and it has shot nicely . I bandicooted it one day for a curry(delicious) and it is still growing. I have hopes of a harvest in Autumn and will repot the rest. I live east of Melbourne so we get frosts , very occasionally. I placed the Galangal on a North wall…protected …but kept the water up to it after winter. Thanks again. Nola

    • Liz says:

      Hi Nola,
      Thanks for the feedback. Can you remember when you planted out the galangal from Green Harvest because my two previous attempts have failure (with rhizomes purchased from there) and I think it may be that I’m attempting it at the wrong time? I hope you enjoy attempting turmeric.

  19. Evie says:

    Hello. did you know that in Indonesia they use the leaves for cooking. Correct me if I’m wrong but they use the leaves in meat dishes like Rendang to make the meat soft and tender. Also where my mother in law come from Sumatra they use it for their vegetable dish. I’m sorry that I don’t have a recipy but you can find lots of recipy on the Internet. Me myself was looking how tho grow turmeric because in Holland where I live I’m searchin specifically for the leaves in Asian foodstores but it is so hard to get those they don’t sell it overhere. so I decided to try and grow them by myself. My mother who is also an Indonesian women told me that they use the turmeric for so many reason as a medicin or to cook with or to use as a facial mask or for dieting. I hope I will succeed with growing and planting tumeric and what I was on you site it was very helpfull to start with

    • Liz says:

      Thanks Evie, I thought they must be used but hadn’t managed to fully investigate. I certainly will look for some recipes now – I particularly like the idea of using them with veg as your mother does. Also I could do with losing a little weight…. The biggest issue you would have growing it in Holland would be the length of the growing season i would have thought. Are you planning to grow it inside?

  20. Sandy says:

    I have about half a dozen of these that sprang up unbidden in my yard. I live in the coastal south and have been in this house for 3 years. Is it possible they have been dormant? I did not plant them but am happy to figure out what they are and happy to have them!

    • Liz says:

      Yes I think they could well have been dormant. Particularly if the summers have been drier or cooler than normal. Hope you enjoy them.

  21. mel says:

    I’m growing turmeric in the containers right now! I’m in US and we do get below freezing here so I’m going to take them indoor. Is it ok to leave the rhizomes in the soil over winter? I’m not sure if I should treat it like lily (dig up the bulbs and keep them in a bag in a garage). Could you please show us how to divide the rhizomes for propagation? The rhizomes has the big piece (the mother part I think that is what it is called) and several babies attached to the mother. Do you break apart the babies from the mother then part the babies? thanks!

    • Liz says:

      Hi Mel, The way you describe breaking apart the rhizomes is exactly what I would do. Regarding leaving the rhizomes in the soil – that is fine provided that the soil gets neither too wet nor too too cold. For example I’m not sure that the rhizomes would respond well to being in freezing soil. Having said that if you brought the plant in its pot in before it gets too cold it may not die back completely. Here it does but I leave my plants outside.

  22. Sas says:

    Very glad to hear that you think it was a worthwhile crop. Fresh turmeric is supposed to be very good foryou. I’ve just sprouted some fresh turmeric bought from an Asian grocer here in Perth. Very excited that it came up so am going to try growing some in a large container. We have very hot dry summers as we’re in the Swan Valley (major wine growing area just outside of Perth) so it will be interesting to see if it can cope.

    • Liz says:

      I reckon it will do OK in the heat but I suspect it would prefer humid heat to dry heat. Perhaps misting it on particularly hot days would create the right sort of micro-climate. Brilliant that it sprouted for you!!!! I think its quite a pretty plant so containers are a great option.

  23. Shane Deering says:

    I grew Turmeric, Ginger and Galingal this season.
    I’m in Traralgon, Vic which is a bit cooler than Melbourne.
    The turmeric is by far the best performer so far. With the largest plant over 4 feet tall and the next largest has flowered.
    My best Ginger about 2feet tall and Galingal about 1 foot tall.

    • Liz says:

      Really impressed Shane. I’d love to know what sort of conditions eg sun, moisture levels you are growing them in.

      • Shane says:

        Update (2014-04-22)-
        Five of the turmeric plants have flowered now.
        All the other plants are taller than reported in my last post.
        Typical day time temps through the summer and into Autumn where around 40-55 deg C. Watered every day.
        The very first plants are showing signs of slowing down. The rest are still growing. Those in pots are trying to force their way out.
        I’ve put some pics here, but they’ve grown since then.
        http://www.vk3bvp.com/turmeric/
        Shane.

        • Liz says:

          thanks for the update Shane – its really interesting to see how the plants do in different climates and locations.

  24. Laura says:

    I am pleased to find this article..I have plans to grow some Turmeric for self use…I LOVE LOVE it for the anti inflammatory ability..I have used the powder in capsules from health food stores for many years…and more and more good benefits are known about it.
    I will be growing it in central Florida, USA.(right now I am in central Ohio which seems this year to have a winter that will not stop)…have done a LOT of research to try to over come any mountains to climb to succeed…your article and others relpy are now a part of my knowledge. Thank you
    Oh for moisture control I would think a portable green contraption(tent) might work to hold moisture …and same with protecting from a frost..work I know..but then gardening is not without it. Those might work especially when the plants are younger.

  25. Lina Fung Hashim says:

    Hi Liz, I found your article in my quest to look for fresh turmeric leaves in Melbourne. In Malaysia, we use it a lot in our cooking e.g. rendang and Sarawak spicy porridge aka bubur pedas . I love to cook the latter dish as it is unique to where I am from. Is there by any chance you still have the leaves? I know it is just right after winter but I am writing this with a hopeful tone :-). Take care, Liz!

    • Liz says:

      Hi Lina, Unfortunately I don’t at the moment. In Melbourne the plant has leaves on it during Summer and Autumn. For a range of reasons I haven’t planted any this year but now that you have mentioned this spicy porridge dish I feel like I need to grow it again.

  26. Bill D says:

    Hi Liz, would I be able to buy an established (or establishing) plant from you? I live in Doncaster East and although I can buy from Green Harvest, I would prefer to buy something that is already established, and I cant find anywhere in Melbourne where I can get one.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Bill. Unfortunately I don’t have any plants for sale (I didn’t propagate any this year due to the holiday and I don’t think I will get a chance to over the next few weeks). If you are looking for an established plant I would try either Bullen Art and Garden or CERES or perhaps Poyntons (there are probably South Eastern suburbs alternatives but I’m not familiar with them). But they probably wont have them yet. In Melbourne the plant dies back over winter and the leaves don’t tend to appear again until at least December. I would give Bulleen Art and Garden a ring now and see if they are going to be getting any in. Personally I would try your own from the root though as any you buy will just be little bits of root with a couple of leaves attached anyway. Because the plant dies back over winter ‘established’ doesn’t work in quite the same way it does with say a fruit tree. Does that make sense?

    • Linda says:

      Hi Bill and Liz, if you can get fresh rhizomes from Coles or Woolworths they will grow just fine. If you sit the rhizome in a small container with about 1 to 2cm of water for about a week or 2 you should see eyes starting to grow. Put them in well draining soil, not too deep, and it should grow just fine. You can do the same with ginger and galangal. You can also cut the rhizomes so you get more plants. I hope this helps 🙂

  27. John Wilkins says:

    Just kicking off with Tumeric in Cygnet, in Southern Tasmania.. pots inside. A friend is doing very well with the same.
    Re Galangal .. my wife is Malay and uses Galangal lots in our cooking. We planted some in a sunny spot 25 years ago and it did very poorly .. doesn’t like dry hot sunny location.. We planted some in a cold moist southerly shaded area in amongst some large tree ferns and other shade-loving temperate species .. and it went riot.. we have the whole area a carpet of tubers … now I understand why it is classed as an invasive species. Our house is 100 feet from the water and blasted by cold antarctic winds. The ginger lily just adors those conditions.

    • Liz says:

      Wow John that’s fabulous – I will definitely try again based on this.

    • Nick Paterson says:

      Hi John
      I live in Campania.
      I’d love to have a go at growing some turmeric. Perhaps you could tell me how you sourced your plants.
      I’m thinking they’d do quite well in my greenhouse tunnels……although cactus may well be a better option, what with the drought conditions we’re experiencing here this summer!
      Cheers
      Nick Paterson

  28. Julie says:

    I grew galangal in WA a few years ago. Much hardier than ginger or turmeric – it didn’t die off in winter.

    I’ll have another go at turmeric. Ginger – I suspect the rhizomes had been treated, as only one in three came up, and that one doesn’t look too good. next spring I’ll try and find some grown locally.

    All were grown in large pots, as it’s easier to control the water and fertiliser.

  29. barbara says:

    Thank you for your article. I wanted to let you know that ginger can be kept alive in a pot year round. I live in NH and have had the same ginger for years. I put it out in the summer and bring it in before the frost. It always seems like it is going to die right around February, but so long as it doesn’t get too much water (and rots) it will recover. It needs to be harvested before it outgrows the pot or else it will break the pot ( had this happen) . This year I changed the plants location to a different window when it started to fade and it has stayed green and growing all winter ( so far). I just planted tumeric myself, bought two little bulbs from Whole Foods store. One rotted, but the other grew and is doing fine.

  30. leigh says:

    I wonder if you used a glass house or even a couple of old frosted glass windows tee peed over the plants to keep the temperture at a more even degrees if it would make a difference??

  31. Neek says:

    Hi Liz, thanks for posting! helped a lot as I’m wanting to grow tumeric when September hits. can I ask about soil type? just a good potting mix or does it like an add of compost, manure, etc?

    • Liz says:

      HI Neek,

      I have done both, it seems to respond best to moist conditions and a bit of food, so I would say whichever is easiest to keep moist and yes add compost and manure where you can.

  32. Robyn says:

    I have ground tumeric fresh and spread it between 2 silicone sheets, rolled it flat and then frozen it. When it is frozen just break it up and store it in a container and use as needed. It just tastes like fresh tumeric which I use in everything.

  33. Swati pai says:

    Turneric leaves have wonderful smell and we Indians use it to make desert called patoli. It can be also used to wrap fish n steam for flavour .

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